Crash Analysis: NEEDLE (Australia, 2010)

The killer is a prick

A voodoo box unleashes vengeance  

Part of what makes us indulge in horror movies is to see death presented to us in a different manner, through a story that compels us. NEEDLE had a wonderful premise with a wonderful little mystery that screenwriters Anthony Egan and John V. Soto (who also directed) could not bring to light.

And that really bothers the hell out of me.

If the pair had really invested in a riveting narrative, this could have comprised the mystery element of the United States based version of THE RING with Clive Barkers HELLRAISER for one potent and unforgettable horror. Instead, after coming up with a wild idea, Egan and Soto clearly didn’t know what to do with it. Instead, it became hack-and-slice cinema that offered little stimulation to the senses. By movie’s end, the tale had become so old and lame, the climax was abysmal and unsatisfactory. In fact, it cheats the audience and sets up a sequel, though I doubt they’ll ever have the chance – unless an intelligent producer with deep pockets comes along and shows them how to do it the right way.

At first, when the lame commercial-hard rock commenced as Ben (Michael Dorman) ran across a college campus, I thought this was going to be typical teen fair. Then the premise was revealed and intrigue set in – only to collapse into typical teen fair. Worst still, Travis Fimmel, who played Ben’s older brother, came off as being a creepy asshole in one scene, and a determined guy out to solve the mystery in another. Now, this did not leave the audience with an enigmatic character (such as Stellan Skarsgård in INSOMNIA or Ji-tae Yu in NATURAL CITY) but a confusing one. However, seeing how the story imploded into mediocrity, I have little doubt the director had told me to act in this manner. Think of George Lucas directing kids (unless they’re stuffed into ewok costumes) and you’ll get the idea.

Revenge horrors have become a “give me a break” kind of subgenre, that is a simple and clichéd plot device for writers and directors to use as an excuse to slaughter. NEEDLE reminds us filmmakers need to deliver so much more. And this movie is only worth watching to see how a couple of writers came up with a great idea and didn’t know how to make it work.

2 out of 5 stars

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